News / Arts & Entertainment

Palestinians Unite Behind Gaza Strip 'Arab Idol' Star

A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
x
A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
A banner depicting Mohammed Assaf, a contestant in the TV talent show 'Arab Idol', is seen on a building in the West Bank city of Ramallah May 13, 2013.
Reuters
The fractious factions in the Gaza Strip and across the Israeli-occupied Palestinian territories have found one voice to unite behind - a 22-year-old youth singing songs about a lost homeland on the Middle East's version of 'American Idol'.
 
Gaza native Mohammed Assaf has become the first Palestinian to qualify for 'Arab Idol', a TV talent show staged in Beirut, in which singers perform for judges and voting viewers.
 
He is now one of the last 10 contestants - largely thanks to his potent mix of good looks and emotional lyrics about ancestral Palestinian lands.
 
“He is the pride of Palestine. He broke the siege with his voice,'' said fan Rehaf al-Batniji, referring to Israel's blockade of Gaza, seized by the Jewish state, along with the West Bank, during the 1967 Arab-Israeli war.
 
She stood in front of a large mural of Assaf at a Gaza restaurant, one of hundreds of posters covering buildings and walls usually marked with political slogans.
 
Assaf's songs blare out of radios - a counter-balance to their usual broadcasts of bleak economic and political news.
 
Politicians have raced to endorse him and Palestinian mobile phone company Jawwal has cut the price of text messages to make it easier for supporters to vote.
 
Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, from the Fatah movement that holds sway in the West Bank, phoned the singer in Beirut and urged all Arabs to vote for him.
 
“The president stressed his support and backing to artist Assaf, whose talent represented pride to Palestine,'' said a statement by the Palestinian official news agency WAFA.
 
The Gaza Strip is ruled by the rival Islamist Hamas faction - a group that disapproves of non-Islamic songs and the kind of Western-style excess on full display in TV talent shows.
 
But even Hamas has come as close as it possibly can to showing support.
 
“He comes from a good, respected and known family,'' Hamas spokesman Fawzi Barhoum said on Facebook.
 
Assaf first made his name inside Gaza at the age of 11, when he recorded a song in 2001 called “O Town be Strong'', at the height of Israeli incursions in the enclave during a Palestinian uprising.
 
On Arab Idol, broadcast by Saudi-owned MBC Group, he has performed with a traditional black-and-white Palestinian scarf around his shoulders.
 
His performances have included “Flying Bird'' which lists the cities of historical Palestine and another song urging Palestinians to unite.
 
The program's celebrity judges from across the Arab world - where the Palestinian cause reverberates - have piled praise on the singer.
 
“I see the Arab idol standing before my eyes,'' said Egyptian composer Hassan El Shafei.
 
“Your voice is made of diamond,'' added Ahlam, a famous singer from the United Arab Emirates.
 
Listening in was Assaf's mother, Umm Shadi Assaf, watching the show in a restaurant near her home in Gaza's Khan Younis refugee camp.
 
Her son had only one wish, she told Reuters, beaming with pride, “to go out and make the world listen to his voice''.

You May Like

Lesotho Faces New Round of Violence, Political Crisis

Brutal killing of military officer has sent former leaders back into S. Africa where they're watching anxiously as regional officials head in to try to restore peace More

Video US Diplomat Expects Adoption of Bosnian Massacre Anniversary Resolution

Samantha Power says there's broad consensus about killings in Bosnia's war, but Russia calls resolution 'divisive,' backs UN countermeasure More

UN Report Exposes Widespread Boko Haram Atrocities

Damning report graphically details pattern of vicious, widespread atrocities committed by Islamist militants More

This forum has been closed.
Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: fred from: Australia
May 14, 2013 9:13 AM
Iam very proud of the palestenian singer mohammed assaf brinig unity among palestenian and hopefuly can bring peace with the jewish people .Its about time both side should have harmony and love songs intead of killing each other ..the whole world want to see peace and hipe ASSAF can make the diffrences ....
In Response

by: spring-cleaner from: springfield, ca
May 20, 2013 6:16 PM
yours is about the kindest, finest, and non-politicaly-charged posts that i have seen in the past 15 years.

there are so many israelis that are also singers, artists, doctors, scientists, etc that wish the very same thing. To pursue the goal of peace. Bless you.

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountaini
X
July 02, 2015 4:10 AM
Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Olympics Construction Scars Sacred Korean Mountain

Environmentalists in South Korea are protesting a Winter Olympics construction project to build a ski slope through a 500-year-old protected forest. Brian Padden reports that although there is strong national support for hosting the 2018 Pyeongchang Winter Olympics, there are growing public concerns over the costs and possible ecological damage at the revered mountain.
Video

Video Xenophobia Victims in South Africa Flee Violence, Then Return

Many Malawians fled South Africa early this year after xenophobic attacks on African immigrants. But many quickly found life was no better at home and have returned to South Africa – often illegally and without jobs, and facing the tough task of having to start over. Lameck Masina and Anita Powell file from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Family of American Marine Calls for Release From Iranian Prison

As the crowd of journalists covering the Iran talks swells, so too do the opportunities for media coverage.  Hoping to catch the attention of high-level diplomats, the family of American-Iranian marine Amir Hekmati is in Vienna, pleading for his release from an Iranian prison after nearly 4 years.  VOA’s Heather Murdock reports from Vienna.
Video

Video UK Holds Terror Drill as MPs Mull Tunisia Response

After pledging a tough response to last Friday’s terror attack in Tunisia, which came just days before the 10th anniversary of the bomb attacks on London’s transport network, British security services are shifting their focus to overseas counter-terror operations. VOA's Henry Ridgwell has more.
Video

Video Obama on Cuba: This is What Change Looks Like

President Barack Obama says the United States will soon reopen its embassy in Cuba for the first time since 1961, ending a half-century of isolation. VOA White House correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.
Video

Video Hate Groups Spread Influence Via Internet

Hate groups of various kinds are using the Internet for propaganda and recruitment, and a Jewish human rights organization that monitors these groups, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, says their influence is growing. The messages are different, but the calls to hatred or violence are similar. VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports.
Video

Video US Silica Sand Mining Surge Worries Illinois Residents, Businesses

Increased domestic U.S. oil and gas production, thanks to advances known as “fracking,” has created a boom for other industries supporting that extraction. Demand for silica sand, used in fracking, could triple over the next five years. In the Midwest state of Illinois, people living near the mines are worried about how increased silica sand mining will affect their businesses and their health. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh has more in this first of a series of reports.
Video

Video Blind Somali Journalist Defies Odds in Mogadishu

Despite improving security in the last few years, Somalia remains one of the most dangerous countries to be a journalist – even more so for someone who cannot see. Abdulaziz Billow has the story of journalist Abdifatah Hassan Kalgacal, who has been reporting from the Somali capital for the last decade despite being blind.
Video

Video Texas Defies Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

Texas state officials have criticized the US Supreme Court decision giving same-sex couples the right to marry nationwide. The attorney general of Texas says last week's decision did not overrule constitutional "rights of religious liberty," and therefore officials performing wedding services can refuse to perform them for same-sex couples if it is against their religious beliefs. Zlatica Hoke reports on the controversy.
Video

Video Rabbi Hits Road to Heal Jewish-Muslim Relations in France

France is on high alert after last week's terrorist attack near the city Lyon, just six months after deadly Paris shootings. The attack have added new tensions to relations between French Jews and Muslims. France’s Jewish and Muslim communities also share a common heritage, though, and as far as one French rabbi is concerned, they are destined to be friends. From the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, Lisa Bryant reports about Rabbi Michel Serfaty and his friendship bus.
Video

Video Saudi Leaks Expose ‘Checkbook Diplomacy’ In Battle With Iran

Saudi Arabia’s willingness to wield its oil money on the global diplomatic stage appears to have been laid bare, after the website WikiLeaks published tens of thousands of leaked cables from Riyadh’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video In Kenya, Police Said to Shoot First, Ask Questions Later

An organization that documents torture and extrajudicial killings says Kenyan police were responsible for 1,252 shooting deaths in five cities, including Nairobi, between 2009 and 2014, representing 67 percent of all gun deaths in the areas reviewed. Gabe Joselow has more from Nairobi.

VOA Blogs

New in Music Alley

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Harry Wayne Casey – “KC” of KC and the Sunshine Band – comes to VOA’s Studio 4 to talk with "Border Crossings" host Larry London and perform songs from his new album, “Feeling You! The 60s.”